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1–358 By the Numbers: What Do Conference Placements Suggest About 2021–22?

A deeper dive into SI’s men’s college basketball rankings examines what the data tells us about perceptions around various leagues.

On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated dropped its preseason ranking of all 358 teams in men’s college basketball, which can be read here.

Compiled by Kevin Sweeney, the list gives us a chance to do a deeper dive into the numbers and see what the data suggests about narratives around the upcoming season. Which conferences look the strongest based on a weighted average, the number of teams in the top 100 and more measurements? Who do we predict to win each league—and to finish in the basement?

Below, we break down the answers to those questions, drawing from our master ranking.

Conference rankings

RankingConferenceAverage Placement*

1

Big 12

40.6

2

Big Ten

47.6

3

SEC

57

4

Big East

58.5

5

ACC

60.8

6

Pac-12

66.6

7

American

94.0

8

WCC

117.1

9

Atlantic 10

120.9

10

Missouri Valley

123.0

11

Mountain West

141.7

12

C-USA

151.2

13

MAC

182.3

14

Sun Belt

199.7

15

CAA

205.7

16

Southern

208.1

17

Horizon

217.6

18

WAC

219.2

19

MAAC

230.4

20

Ohio Valley

232.2

21

Big West

233.0

22

Ivy

233.5

23

Atlantic Sun

243.1

24

Big Sky

244.7

25

Summit

246.3

26

America East

246.4

27

Patriot

268.7

28

Big South

269.2

29

NEC

272.9

30

SWAC

304.2

31

MEAC

305.9

32

Southland

310.9

*Determined by finding the average 1–358 position of all members of the conference

Takeaway: The Big 12 surely benefits a bit from having only 10 total teams—compared to 14 for the next two closest conferences, the Big Ten and SEC—but it’s no surprise to see it in the No. 1 spot. The league is perennially strong and has three teams in SI’s top seven alone. For comparison, the ACC doesn’t get to its third team until No. 21. Speaking of the ACC, its placement at fifth doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence that last season’s uncharacteristically mediocre season was a fluke, but a lot will come down to the way teams like Duke, UNC and Virginia rebound.

The top five mid-major conferences are the WCC, Atlantic 10, Missouri Valley, Mountain West and Conference USA, and all but perhaps the C-USA seem to have at least a decent shot at multiple NCAA tournament bids. The Southland’s checking in dead last out of the 32 leagues was a bit unexpected, but after losing five teams—including Stephen F. Austin and Abilene Christian—it has some slack to make up.

PREVIEWS: American | ACC | Big 12 | Big East

Top-25 teams by conference

Big Ten: 6
Big 12: 4
SEC: 4
ACC: 3
Pac-12: 2
AAC: 2
Big East: 2
WCC: 1
A-10: 1

Takeaway: Here is where the Big Ten’s potential depth starts to come through. The conference sent nine teams dancing last March, and if it truly has six top-25-level teams in 2021–22, it could be on its way to achieving that again. The Pac-12 has only two teams here, but the positive is that both are within the top 12. On paper, the Big East doesn’t figure to have another legitimate national title contender after Villanova, but perhaps UConn can make a push into that territory.

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Top-50 teams by conference

Big Ten: 8
SEC: 8
Big 12: 7
ACC: 7
Big East: 5
Pac-12: 4
American: 3
WCC: 2
Mountain West: 2
A-10: 2
Missouri Valley: 1
Conference USA: 1

Takeaway: The SEC’s recent growth in men’s basketball is on display here; Kentucky may be SI’s predicted winner, but it will have plenty of competition. The Pac-12’s having only four of its 12 teams in the top 50 shows we’re still skeptical about the depth of the conference as a whole, despite its magical March performance. The American’s three top-50 teams (Memphis, Houston, Wichita State) figure to be where its upper tier ends. And the A-10 may have only two teams here, but both (St. Bonaventure and Richmond) have NCAA tournament at-large potential.

PREVIEWS: Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC | Best of Rest

Top-100 teams by conference

Big Ten: 13
SEC: 12
ACC: 12
Pac-12: 10
Big 12: 9
Big East: 9
American: 6
Atlantic 10: 6
WCC: 5
Mountain West: 4
Missouri Valley: 4
Conference USA: 4
MAC: 3
Ohio Valley: 1
MAAC: 1
WAC: 1

Takeaway: Again, the Big Ten’s depth (93% of its teams in the top 100) stands out, but so does the SEC’s having 86% of its teams and the ACC’s having 80% (the Big 12 and Big East, of course, trump the latter two with 90%). The Big East might not be top-heavy in our rankings, but having nine of its 10 teams within the top 100 isn’t nothing. The AAC and A-10 are fairly well-represented, but how about the Missouri Valley and C-USA checking in with four apiece?

Highest and lowest-ranked team per conference:

ConferenceHighest RankedLowest Ranked

AMERICA EAST

Stony Brook (123)

Binghamton (343)

AMERICAN

Memphis (6)

Tulane (173)

ATLANTIC SUN

Liberty (110)

Central Arkansas (351)

ATLANTIC 10

St. Bonaventure (23)

Fordham (226)

ACC

Duke (11)

Boston College (154)

BIG 12

Texas (2)

Iowa State (108)

BIG EAST

Villanova (10)

DePaul (122)

BIG SKY

Southern Utah (120)

Idaho (331)

BIG SOUTH

Winthrop (148)

Charleston Southern (344)

BIG TEN

Michigan (5)

Minnesota (144)

BIG WEST

UC Irvine (127)

Cal State Northridge (337)

CAA

James Madison (147)

UNC Wilmington (270)

CONFERENCE USA

UAB (50)

Middle Tennessee (265)

HORIZON

Wright State (102)

IUPUI (338)

IVY LEAGUE

Yale (138)

Cornell (339)

MAAC

Iona (88)

Canisius (302)

MAC

Buffalo (85)

Western Michigan (294)

MEAC

Norfolk State (218)

UMES (358)

MISSOURI VALLEY

Loyola Chicago (32)

Evansville (220)

MOUNTAIN WEST

San Diego State (36)

Air Force (325)

NORTHEAST

Bryant (177)

CCSU (349)

OHIO VALLEY

Belmont (57)

UT Martin (342)

PAC-12

UCLA (4)

Cal (163)

PATRIOT LEAGUE

Colgate (109)

American (335)

SEC

Kentucky (9)

Georgia (152)

SOUTHERN

Chattanooga (115)

Western Carolina (340)

SOUTHLAND

Nicholls State (212)

Houston Baptist (352)

SWAC

Prairie View A&M (208)

Mississippi Valley State (357)

SUMMIT LEAGUE

South Dakota State (114)

Denver (345)

SUN BELT

Louisiana (103)

Little Rock (275)

WAC

New Mexico State (96)

Chicago State (356)

WCC

Gonzaga (1)

Portland (293)

For SI's full 1–358 rankings, click here.

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• Top Men's Breakout Player Candidates
• Coaches on the Rise Entering 2021–22

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